New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

New WPB Venue Voltaire to Open With Three Concerts

New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

New West Palm Beach nightclub Voltaire will look something like this when it opens Thursday night.

When Voltaire, West Palm Beach’s newest nightclub and music venue, hosts its grand opening Thursday night, it will be the first time in weeks that its owner and manager can just relax. Nightlife maven Rodney Mayo and promoter extraordinaire Steve Rullman have been toiling around the clock for weeks to ensure the venue will be ready for this weekend’s three-night unveiling, work that is steadily continuing at the time of this writing.

I swung by Voltaire on Tuesday night, and the club still had the air of a construction site. Circular saws and piles of plywood littered the open space in front of the stage, which was covered with electrical wires and tubs and boxes containing countless tech components. The bar, in a state of mid-paint, was heavily newspapered, and instead of bottles, tool kits and electric screwdrivers lined the shelves.

At the time of my visit, a local artist was meeting with Rullman to discuss his tweaks to a commissioned painting of Voltaire, the French Enlightenment writer and the venue’s namesake. The original commission disappointed management, so this pinch-hitter had less than 48 hours to make it work before the giant, framed portrait would be hung at the club’s entrance, welcoming visitors.

The clock was ticking, but Rullman, ever cool under pressure, was used to the feeling. He had built up venues like Delray Beach’s City Limits and West Palm Beach’s Propaganda more or less from the ground up. For too-brief spells, these clubs served as flagship locations for Rullman’s imaginative concert bookings, which drew heavily from psych-pop, shoegaze, dream-pop, alt-folk and other under-represented indie genres. For the past few years he’s been a freelance promoter, scheduling shows at places like Respectable Street, and he’s enthused to once again have a place, in Voltaire, that he can fully manage and shape.

“Instead of trying to find rooms for different shows that are coming through, I have a home base now,” he says. With a capacity of 216, Voltaire can draw sizable indie bands with national footprints, while serving as a laid-back lounge on nights without bookings. As a nod to Voltaire’s era, the bar will serve absinthe and mead. There will be cabaret-style tables and chairs up front, and a sushi bar in the back, along with a cluster of comfy, mismatched chairs and sofas.

“It’s not a room where we can do punk rock and heavy stuff,” Rullman says. “That stuff will stay at Respectable Street [also owned by Rodney Mayo, a couple doors down]. There’s no room to slam-dance in here. That’s not to say there won’t be room for people to dance and move around, but it’s not set up for something too extreme. So ideally I will be booking stuff that’s a little out of the ordinary. The idea is to book special events, parties, experiences, happenings. If your band wants to play here, come up with a reason to do the show. Let’s turn it into a party—maybe it’s someone in the band’s birthday, maybe it’s a reunion show, maybe it’s an album release, maybe it’s a charity benefit show.”

South Florida singer-songwriter Brady Newbill played a “sneak preview” show at Voltaire on Aug. 18. On Facebook, he praised the venue’s “great sound, great aesthetic, great atmosphere. A cozy vibe for performer and audience alike. It finally feels like the South Florida music scene has a home court again.”

A performance from last Friday's sneak preview show. Photo courtesy of Joseph R. Steiner.

A performance from last Friday’s sneak preview show. Photo courtesy of Joseph R. Steiner.

“The space is set up to do all kinds of things, and it doesn’t need to be music-related,” Rullman says. “We might be doing some comedy nights. We’ll be renting the room out for parties. I can see wedding receptions and rehearsal dinners happening up here from time to time. We can bring in food from Kapow and Hullabaloo.”

These restaurants, across the street from Voltaire, speak to Rodney Mayo’s growing dominance of the 500 block of Clematis Street, established over three decades. Mayo also runs Subculture Coffee and Lost Weekend. As a second-floor speakeasy, Voltaire is situated just above the latter, a lively lounge with pool and foosball tables, arcade games and a hip soundtrack. Before Mayo opened Lost Weekend, its address, at 526 Clematis St., had been vacant for some 35 years.

“It’s one of those buildings that’s always been here, and people just walked past it, and didn’t really notice it,” Rullman says. “Rodney purchased it six or seven years ago. It was an apartment building, and from what people say, it was an old hippie crash pad. The wallpaper was newspaper, and they’d drawn over it, and there was a lot of really trippy artwork. That’s the rumor, anyway. I don’t know if it’s haunted; I like to think it is.”

You can draw your own conclusions this weekend, with three nights of eclectic 9 p.m. concerts presented free of charge. Thursday night will feature the funk/jazz/soul group Public Sounds Collective; South Florida psych-punk amalgam Dead and Loving It will headline Friday night; and Miami’s Gold Dust Lounge, an instrumental hybrid of self-described “post-surf, noir, spy-fi rock-n-roll,” will play Saturday night.

Rullman has also scheduled major touring bands through the fall, including post-rock favorites Unwed Sailor (Oct. 6); Marbin, a Chicago by way of Israel jazz-rock band (Oct. 8); and New York shoegazers Shana Falana (Nov. 9). Expanding its sonic palette, Voltaire has also dedicated future Saturday nights to a drag cabaret in the spirit of the late Clematis Street venue The Lounge, and Sunday nights to blues.

To start, the venue will be open Wednesdays to Sundays, with possible special events slated on select Mondays and Tuesdays. For the full schedule, visit sub-culture.org/voltaire.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 22 to 28

Animal artists show off their paintings, a Miami mentalist plays Russian roulette, and an all-female tribute act brings a Whole Lotta Love. Plus, Demetri Martin, Gilbert Gottfried, “The Sunshine Boys” and more in your week ahead.


WEDNESDAY

Michael H. Small & Peter Librach

What: “The Sunshine Boys”

Where: Stage Door Theatre, 8036 W. Sample Road, Margate

When: 2 p.m. Cost: $48

Contact: 954/344-7765, stagedoorfl.org

This 1972 Neil Simon comedy is the playwright’s nostalgic ode to vaudeville, that early-20th-century clearinghouse for live entertainers of various stripes—think “America’s Got Talent” for the Depression era. The Sunshine Boys of the title, Al Lewis and Willie Clark, were a once-successful vaudeville comedy duo for more than four decades, but whose relationship withered. When Willie’s nephew, a talent agent, inspires his uncle to reunite with his former partners, old wounds reopen with humor and Simon’s trademark humanism. Simon is said to have been inspired by several mostly forgotten, real-life vaudeville duos, such as Smith & Dale and Gallagher & Shean. We’d like to think that, given this week’s celebrity passing, that Martin & Lewis were firmly on Simon’s mind. “The Sunshine Boys” runs through Sept. 24.

THURSDAY

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What: ONYX Art Stroll

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 866/811-4111, artsgarage.org

Arts Garage’s monthly celebration of South Florida artists and musicians features a pair of live bands and handful of artists and crafters hawking their original wares in the venue’s Grassroots Gallery. August’s lineup features soulful, funky rock bands Chemradery (pictured) and the Nostalgic Minds. The latter, a six-piece outfit, recently released an EP of acoustic songs and a faithful cover of Soundgarden’s “Fell On Black Days.” Between acts, and before the show, shop the local vendors, whose work is usually concentrated in outsider art, painting, sculpture, mixed media and jewelry.

THURSDAY TO SATURDAY

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What: Gilbert Gottfried

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: Various show times

Cost: $22

Contact: 561/833-1812, palmbeachimprov.com

Back when “The Celebrity Apprentice” was merely one of television’s guiltiest pleasures and not a road map to a polarizing presidency, Gilbert Gottfried had the hilarious, unmitigated audacity to compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler … to Donald Trump’s face. It should come as a surprise to no one that Gottfried didn’t last much longer on the NBC series; getting fired for un-P.C. barbs is kind of his thing. Just ask Aflac, which ended Gottfried’s lucrative tenure as its spokes-duck after he tweeted off-color jokes about the 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan. But for fans of the screechy-voiced comic, his ruthlessness at pillorying such sacred cows continues to ensure packed comedy clubs wherever he performs, in an act that is old-fashioned in its approach and cutting-edge in its content. Don’t say we didn’t warn you.

THURSDAY TO SUNDAY

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What: Alan Chamo: “Mind Hacker”

Where: Colony Theatre, 1040 Lincoln Road, Miami Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $39-$49

Contact: 800/211-1414, colonymb.org

Chamo, a longtime Miami magician and comedian, concludes his three-week residency at the Colony with six shows in both English and Spanish this weekend. A favorite on cruise ships and corporate mixers, Chamo’s “mind-blowing” show is focused on mentalism, the sophisticated art of simulating psychic powers. Interactive in nature, his act includes mind reading, blindfolded object detections, and a show-stopping, Russian Roulette style game involving paper bags and a large spike—making for a pointed illusion, indeed.

FRIDAY

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What: “Wet Hot American Summer”

Where: Crest Theatre at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., West Palm Beach

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $5, or $15 for VIP ticket

Contact: 561/243-7922, oldschoolsquare.org

This 2001 comedy set at a debauched summer camp in 1981 has enjoyed a surprisingly robust afterlife. Despite failing at the box office and among critics, “Wet Hot American Summer” has struck a chord with Gen-Xers and beyond, who appreciate its satirical skewering of 1980s sex comedies and its bonkers sense of humor, courtesy of “The State” alums Michael Showalter and David Wain. Bawdy, iconic and endlessly quotable, the movie’s enshrinement as a cult classic makes it a perfect fit for the Crest’s summer movie series. It also provides for plenty of star-gazing, with a parade of familiar faces including Janeane Garofalo, Paul Rudd, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, and a then-unknown Amy Poehler and Bradley Cooper. For a $15 VIP ticket, you get one drink and food item along with admission.

SATURDAY

Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

Lez Zeppelin plays Led Zeppelin at the State Theater in Fairfax, Virginia on June 18, 2011. Photo by Pat Benic

What: Lez Zeppelin

Where: Parker Playhouse, 707 N.E. Eighth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/462-0222, browardcenter.org

“Lez Zeppelin” is an irresistible name for an all-female tribute act to Led Zeppelin, but if the four ladies didn’t bring the fire along with the irony, it would be easy to write them off as a novelty act. But these women rock just as hard as Robert Plant and company, resurrecting Zeppelin’s greatest hits with unimpeachable passion and urgency. The group established its authentic bona fides in 2007, when it enlisted Led Zeppelin sound engineer Eddie Kramer to produce its debut album. The band subsequently employed ‘60s-era period instrumentation, includes ‘50s guitars, a 1960s compressor and a Fuzzbender stomp box, to recreate the vinyl version of Zeppelin I. As a live band, the extra x chromosome goes a long way; for evidence, look no further than Lez Zeppelin’s orgasmic take on “Whole Lotta Love.”

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What: “Savage: Art Made by Animals”

Where: Macaya Gallery, 145 N.W. 36th St., Miami

When: 7 to 10 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: zoomiami.org

Yes, you read that correctly: This fundraiser features artwork created by the animals of Zoo Miami, with some assistance by their stewards. Themes include the relationship between the animals and their keepers, a collaboration that resonates across dozens of abstract paintings from a wide range of creatures, from snakes to elephants. The best of the bunch, like “Chimp Splatter” and “Croc Chaos,” even conjure Jackson Pollock! This special event includes music, free snacks and a cash bar, along with animal encounters for the first hour. All proceeds will support species conservation and research.

MONDAY (Aug. 28)

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What: Demetri Martin

Where: Palm Beach Improv, 550 S. Rosemary Ave., Suite 250, West Palm Beach

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 561/833-1812, palmbeachimprov.com

This Greek-American comedian from New York has built up a hip cultural pedigree: For years, he was the “Senior Youth Correspondent” on “The Daily Show;” he appeared on musical jokesters The Flight of the Conchords’ TV series; he starred in an Ang Lee movie and appeared in others by Steven Soderbergh and Lake Bell. He has achieved all of this bankable success through his consistently unique standup act, a sophisticated mélange of observations, self-deprecation, non-sequiturs and malapropisms inspired by the no-frills deadpanning of Steven Wright. As reviews of his current tours have indicated, Martin is also evolving: He eschews props such as the white drawing board of his earlier gigs, letting the jokes alone—eventually accompanied by acoustic guitar and other instruments—bring the funny.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 15 to 21

Nineties hip-hop headliners tour a nostalgic mini-fest, an all-male revue brings a bit of “Magic” to Lake Park, and the solar eclipse is viewable right here in Boca. Plus, Andrew Dice Clay, author Robert Watson, “Shorts Gone Wild” and more in your week ahead.


WEDNESDAY

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What: Screenings of “The Trip” and “The Trip to Italy”

Where: Savor Cinema, 503 S.E. Sixth St., Fort Lauderdale

When: 1 and 3:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 954/525-3456, fliff.com

“The Trip to Spain,” the third installment in director Michael Winterbottom’s cultiest of recent franchises, will premiere in South Florida theaters August 25. Prepare yourself for the new film by feasting in its pair of hilarious forbears on the big screen: “The Trip,” in which fictionalized versions of comic actors Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon embarked on a culinary tour of northern England; and “The Trip to Italy,” which repeated the formula in the scrumptious Italian footsteps of the great Romantic poets. Gut-bustingly funny, the “Trip” series thrives off the brotherly chemistry of its stars, whose improvised zingers, uncanny celebrity impersonations and love-hate relationship form both the comic backbone and emotional nexus of the series. These modern classics are worth seeing more than once.

WEDNESDAY AND THURSDAY

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What: “The Ben Hecht Show”

Where: Arts Garage, 94 N.E. Second Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $30

Contact: 561/450-6357, artsgarage.org

For audiences under 30, Ben Hecht was kind of like the Aaron Sorkin of Hollywood’s Golden Age: a multitalented screenwriter who captured the pulse of fast-talking urban life in scripts like “The Front Page,” “His Girl Friday” and the original “Scarface,” working for everyone from Hitchcock to Ford to Howard Hawks and Otto Preminger. He was also an accomplished journalist, one of the first American newspapermen to write about the atrocities of World War II. Clad in the classic reporter’s fedora and three-piece suit, actor-writer James Sherman constructed this solo theatre piece exploring the writer’s legacy. “The Ben Hecht Show” combines history, humor and biography into a format that Hecht himself would no doubt appreciate.

THURSDAY

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What: Opening night of “Shorts Gone Wild 5”

Where: Island City Stage, 2308 N. Dixie Highway, Wilton Manors

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $35

Contact: 954/519-2533, islandcitystage.org

With settings changing from space stations to roller rinks, and themes ranging from superheroes to religion, Island City Stage’s fifth-annual short-play festival will once again highlight accomplished 10-minute works from local and national playwrights, usually integrating LGBTQ themes. As with previous years, the audience will select the order of the plays, a conceit that will challenge and surprise the actors nightly. This year, the company is throwing another high concept into the mix: The evening will be structured like an episode of the classic game show “Concentration,” complete with vintage commercials and “words from our sponsors.” The production runs through Sept. 10.

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What: Robert Watson

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 305/442-4408, booksandbooks.com

Prolific writer and Lynn University history professor Robert Watson, whose nonfiction books total more than three dozen, will read from his latest tome, the paranormally titled Ghost Ship of Brooklyn. But the horrors contained in its spine are all too real: The title ship, the HMS Jersey, held thousands of American POWs captured by the British during World War II, from its mooring off the coast of Brooklyn. The conditions were inhumane to say the least. Scarcely provided food or water, and crammed like sardines in the bowels in the ship, more Americans died onboard than on all of the war’s battlefields. This alarming statistic is one of many in Watson’s engrossing narrative, which is culled from newspapers, diaries and military reports.

THURSDAY TO SATURDAY

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What: Andrew Dice Clay

Where: Boca Black Box, 8221 Glades Road, Suite 10

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $75-$105

Contact: 561/483-9036, bocablackbox.com

In a quainter time for American politics and policy, a comedian’s standup persona could still top headlines across the country. Back in the ‘80s, Andrew Dice Clay was a controversy magnet, generating a torrent of press for his misogynistic material, which struck a chord with audiences nationwide. He even became the first comedian to sell out Madison Square Garden. The Boca Black Box isn’t MSG, but the fact that the Diceman is still selling out venues decades after his peak is a testament to the durability of his act. Offstage, Clay is reportedly a sweet guy, and his acting range transcends his macho mien: He received acclaim for performances in “Blue Jasmine” and HBO’s “Vinyl,” and, believe it or not, he’s set to star as Lady Gaga’s father in Hollywood’s latest remake of “A Star is Born.” That said, expect this three-night stint in Boca to be bluer than a cobalt sky.

SATURDAY

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What: “I Love the ‘90s” Tour

Where: Pompano Beach Amphitheatre, 1801 N.E. Sixth St., Pompano Beach

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $48-$128

Contact: 954/519-5500, ticketmaster.com

This gathering of hip-hop, rap and R&B chart-toppers from two decades past arrives at an opportune time, cresting an indelible wave of ‘90s nostalgia that has permeated movies, television and, of course, music festivals. A national tour making its inaugural South Florida stop, “I Love the ‘90s” features an enviable lineup for listeners tuned into Y-100 circa 1995: Wellington’s own Vanilla Ice, Salt N Pepa, Coolio and Young MC. This will never win our vote for the most sophisticated mini music fest, but it’s the one most likely to cause you to dance yourself stupid, which in times like these is a necessary escape.

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What: Rock Hard Revue: “The Magic Mike Experience”

Where: The Kelsey Theater, 700 Park Ave., Lake Park

When: 9 p.m.

Cost: $18 (or $50 for front two rows and meet-and-greet)

Contact: 561/328-7481, thekelseytheater.com

“Magic Mike,” the movie franchise that, more than any other, has catered to the female sexual gaze, has inspired a new wave of all-male dance revues capitalizing on its risqué market. The Rock Hard Revue is one such troupe; based in Orlando and Tampa, the company claims to be the only all-male strip act on the east coast, and it has some impressive, um, attributes: performances on the ninth season of “America’s Got Talent,” and choreography from a former director of Chippendale’s. Men are invited to attend this touring production of the group’s “Magic Mike Experience,” but the Rock Hard Revue’s website states the obvious when it says “[The show] is designed for the woman audience member in mind.”

MONDAY (AUG. 21)

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What: Solar Eclipse Event and Expedition

Where: FAU Observatory, 777 Glades Road, Boca Raton

When: 1:30 to 4:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: cescos.fau.edu

As you know, next Monday marks the first total solar eclipse in 38 years, and it’s viewable—at least in part—coast to coast. There’s no better venue locally to experience this once-in-a-lifetime phenomena than FAU’s Observatory, which will host an Open Dome Event and Sidewalk Solar Eclipse Expedition. If you haven’t bought official solar eclipse glasses, don’t sweat it: FAU will provide them free of charge, and visitors will have the opportunity to view the event through the university’s telescope. You’ll even get to see live feeds of the eclipse from across the country. I can’t think of a better reason to blow off work, but do arrive early: Next Monday also marks the first day of classes for the fall semester, so parking will be at a premium.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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With 2017-2018 Season, Kravis Hits Its Eclectic PEAK

This week, the Kravis Center announced its long-awaited 2017-2018 season. It’s more jam-packed than ever, with a full slate of top-shelf comedians (Dennis Miller, Howie Mandel, Jackie Mason); rock, jazz and classical headliners (The Beach Boys, Audra McDonald, Itzhak Perlman); and an especially eclectic theatre season (“The Book of Mormon,” “Hamlet,” “The Illusionists”).

But the highlight, as far as my radar is concerned, is the remarkable growth of the venue’s “PEAK”—Provocative Entertainment at Kravis—programs, which showcases, in the Kravis’ own words, “ethnic diversity and impactful themes.”

Staged in the Kravis’ intimate Rinker Playhouse, PEAK began five seasons ago as an experiment to attract more cutting-edge artists and hipper, younger audiences. It’s improved ever since, and this year’s lineup doubles the number of PEAK acts from its first year to a record 16, encompassing avant-garde dance, timely monologues, a multimedia music showcase and even an LGBTQ variety show. Here’s the sweet 16:

Lemon Andersen: “When Aliens Fall From the Sky” (Nov. 9-10, 2017)

This performance art presentation from a veteran of Russell Simmons’ “Def Poetry Jam” has nothing to do with extraterrestrials; rather, it’s a meditation on immigration and identity in America, with Andersen transforming the poems and journeys of 13 travelers into an original theatre piece.

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DakhaBrakha (Nov. 12, 2017)

If you haven’t been brushing up on your old Ukrainian dialect lately, DakhaBrakha translates to “give/take.” There will be many such cultural exchanges at this revisionist expression of Ukrainian folklore, where a panoply of Indian, Arabic, African, Russian and Australian instruments—including the accordion and didgeridoo—create borderless harmony that its creators call “ethnic chaos.”

“Ethel’s Documerica” (Nov. 17, 2017)

This singular production takes a multimedia approach to environmental awareness. Images from “Project Documerica,” a photo essay commissioned by the EPA in 1970, will play on a video screen, while ETHEL, a band that hybridizes indie and classical music, will perform audio interpretations of the photos, in a show that reflects on our relationship with the world around us.

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10 Hairy Legs (Jan. 19-20, 2018)

Beyond the subversive humor of its name, this New Jersey-based dance company is a markedly serious purveyor of male-centered dance. The 100-percent male repertory has earned effusive praise for its mission of advancing the role of the male in dance, and this tour, subtitled “Celebrating the Artistry of the Male Dancer,” showcases some of its finest commissions by esteemed choreographers.

Contra-Tiempo Urban Latin Dance Theater (Feb. 9-10, 2018)

The provocative, self-proclaimed troupe known as Contra-Tiempo formed in 2005—and while its name translates in English to “against time,” the group is so cutting-edge that it’s perennially ahead of it. Cesar Alvarez, co-founder of the Los Angeles-based company, composes its soundtracks by mashing together deconstructed salsa, Americana, hip-hop, industrial and found sounds, which in turn inspire choreography that spans the spectrum from salsa, Afro-Cuban and hip-hop to modern and jazz dance.

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Urban Bush Women: “Hair and Other Stories” (Feb. 16-17, 2018)

This Brooklyn dance company communicates themes resonant with the African diaspora in the most exciting, energizing way possible: through movement and sound. Continuing the company’s exploration of the female form in dance, “Hair and Other Stories” explores self-image, race and gender inequality with choreography that stimulates the mind and touches the soul.

Yamato: The Drummers of Japan (Feb. 19-20, 2018)

Visitors to the Morikami know fall about taiko drumming, but this touring band of thunderous drummers may kick it up a notch. Yamato, which performs on taiko drums made from ancient trees, will bow its latest show “The Challengers,” a spirited celebration complete with specially designed costumes.

Mike Daisey: “The End of Journalism” (Feb. 23-24, 2018)

This imaginative storyteller has completed more than 25 monologues in 20 years, including one that lasted 24 hours. His latest, “The End of Journalism,” is a timely, pungent lament on the decline of the Fourth Estate, from the shrinking influence of newspapers to the Facebook propaganda that proliferated during the 2016 election.

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Kaki King (March 1, 2018)

Any gig by this “new guitar God” (per Rolling Stone) is something to celebrate. A guitarist and composer with prodigious talent and a chameleonic approach to genre, Kaki King has collaborated with artists ranging Eddie Vedder to Timbaland to my favorite band, the Mountain Goats. This concert experience, “The Neck is a Bridge to the Body,” may be her most ambitious yet: It’s a multimedia extravaganza in which her guitar melds into the psychedelic imagery projecting behind her. See it to believe it.

Mountainfilm on Tour (March 9-10, 2018)

The only purely cinematic program on the PEAK 16, this mini film festival screens documentaries and short features from the nearly 40-year-old history of Colorado’s annual Telluride Mountainfilm festival. The event’s objective has always been to showcase films intended to make the world a better place, so prepare to be inspired.

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Zakir Hussain, Tabla (March 15, 2018)

This concert presents a rare stateside appearance from Hussain, a living legend of the tabla—a deceptively simple-looking instrument, consisting of two hand drums, that dates back centuries. Hussain’s father, Alla Rakha, mastered the tabla, and Hussain has followed suit, winning Grammy awards, performing on the “Apocalypse Now” soundtrack, and collaborating with the Grateful Dead. At his Kravis set, he’ll perform alongside flautist Rakesh Chaurasia.

Lil Buck and Jon Boogz: “Love Heals All Wounds” (March 21-22, 2018)

These exciting progenitors of jookin, a form of street dancing originating in Memphis, have goals no less lofty than changing the world through dance. “Love Heals All Wounds,” which features Buck and Boogz’s dance company Control Freakz, displays the dancer-choreographers’ deft footwork and spoken-word eloquence while promoting messages of inclusivity and diversity.

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Ranky Tanky (April 11-12, 2018)

This four-piece band, along with singer Quiana Parler, perform music in the authentic Gullah tradition—which originated with enslaved West Africans and proliferated in the Lowcountry regions of Georgia and South Carolina. One of the most celebrated contemporary Gullah bands, Ranky Tanky keeps the genre alive and thriving, with raucous barnburners and soul-stirring spirituals alike.

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Che Malambo (April 13-14, 2018)

With roots in 17th-century South America, this all-male Argentinean dance company combines precise movement with explosive percussion instrumentation. Straddling drums, the dancers showcase fleet feet and remarkable strength and agility, thanks to choreography inspired by the rhythm of galloping horses.

“The Mountaintop” (April 20-21, 2018)

L.A. Theatre Works tours its production of this two-character play set in the Lorraine Motel in Memphis on the night before Martin Luther King’s assassination. Paranoid and brilliant, King engages in conversation with a hotel maid that yields vivid, metaphysical results.

“It Gets Better” (June 16, 2018)

PEAK concludes with a stage presentation of columnist Dan Savage’s influential “It Gets Better” initiative, founded in 2010 to combat bullying of LGBTQ youth. The multimedia presentation features poems, skits, songs and more, performed by students from the local “It Gets Better” program in Lake Worth.


Whew! Enough awesomeness this season? PEAK, of course, is just a fraction of Kravis’ full season lineup. Check out the entire mammoth sked at kravis.org.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Concert Review: Garbage, Blondie at Hard Rock Live

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Even Garbage, a Platinum-selling rock band with millions of fans, must suffer the indignities of the touring life. “Our tour bus is now officially dead to us,” Shirley Manson tweeted, at 5:09 a.m. Aug. 7. “We are currently hitch hiking to Orlando. Pray for us. Stay strong.”

Garbage’s Central Florida fans may still be on tinterhooks, with the group’s scheduled performance hours away at the time of this writing. Luckily for us South Floridians, Manson and her band made it halfway, lighting up the Hard Rock Live stage by 7:40 (yes, that early, to the chagrin of some!) Tuesday night. So when she exclaimed, after two songs, “We made it to Hollywood!,” the relief was palpable.

This double bill, alongside Blondie, certainly wouldn’t have been the same without them. “This has been a meeting that is long overdue,” Manson said, noting that Garbage hasn’t played this region since 1999. She made it up to us with an electrifying set of molten songs full of angst and spitfire, plucked judiciously from a more than 20-year career.

Clad in a floor-length scarlet dress coat, her bob an equally blazing shade of red, Manson looked like the belle of any ball, especially one thrown by Lewis Carroll. Whether standing downstage to let a fan billow her dress to pantomiming windmill guitars with her bandmates, she was a captivating presence, impossible to look away from. During “Empty,” she collapsed to her knees, feeling every painful lyric down to each syllable. She left the stage in the middle of “Cherry Lips” to commune with lucky superfans in the front section, slinked around the stage like a sinuous Bond girl during “The World is Not Enough,” and knocked the mic stand off the stage during the raucous send-off, “Vow.”

As one of the great post-grunge poets of the disenfranchised, Manson has lost none of her edge, nor has her band’s terrific music. Its latest single, the politically conscious “No Horses,” throbbed with apocalyptic urgency, while “I Think I’m Paranoid” remains a primo example of the loud-quiet-loud Pixies/Nirvana formula that made the ‘90s such an exciting time for alternative rock. “Why Do You Love Me?”—the only song in Garbage’s set that the rest of the cities didn’t get—was a blistering rocker that could wake the dead. “Stupid Girl” and “Only Happy When it Rains” both deviated agreeably from their album versions, the former with a deceptive intro, and the latter opening with Manson crouched on the drummer’s platform, crooning the opening stanzas like a jazz singer.

The adrenalized head-banger “Push It” was another of many highlights, yielding a modicum of pogoing from an otherwise docile crowd of Gen-Xers and older who have matured alongside the band—outgrowing mosh pits and crowd-surfing but certainly not the great music that once inspired them.

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Blondie followed, and though any respectable bill would have Deborah Harry’s legendary New Wave act headlining, Garbage was unquestionably the main draw. Still a rebellious voice—she sported strange headgear resembling bees as part of her colony collapse disorder activism, along with a cape emblazoned with the phrase “stop fucking the planet”—Harry seemed to be having a good time onstage. But she also seemed to be on something that affected her performance, and not in a positive way. Her energy sagged even during the opening number “One Way or Another,” and “Call Me” was an abject mess, with Harry appearing to forget lyrics and mumble words that may or may not have been part of the song (though we got to see keyboardist Matt Katz-Bohen rock that Key-tar like it was 1985!). “That was fun, actually,” she said afterwards, and I can’t say I agree.

As for “Rapture,” that song was a travesty even when it was released in 1980, and I diligently skip it every time I spin Autoamerican. Onstage last night, it seemed to stretch on for twice its length. The same tediousness marred “Fragments,” a slow-building number from Pollinator that led to a mini-exodus of fans to the bathrooms, or the bar, or their cars. Perhaps it’s saying something that the best number from the first half of the set was also the most incongruous one: the band’s short, bluesy take on “Rainy Day Women #12 & 35,” a hippie sing-along that felt like Bob Dylan by way of Chuck Berry by way of Blondie.

Patient concertgoers were finally treated to a solid finish. “Atomic” featured a rousing guitar-solo climax, “Heart of Glass” proved Harry still had the golden range to hit the song’s ethereal notes, and “The Tide is High” transported us briefly and pleasingly to a Caribbean island.

But the fact remains that very little in Blondie’s set was exciting. The necessary caveat, of course, is that Harry is 72, and the fact that she’s still playing 90-minute rock shows is an accomplishment in itself. It’s just not enough.

GARBAGE SET LIST

No Horses

Sex is Not the Enemy

#1 Crush

Empty

I Think I’m Paranoid

Cherry Lips

Blackout

Special

Why Do You Love Me?

Even Though Our Love is Doomed

The World is Not Enough

Stupid Girl

Happy When it Rains

Push It

Vow

BLONDIE SET LIST

One Way or Another

Hanging on the Telephone

Fun

Call Me

My Monster

Rapture

Fragments

Too Much

Atomic

Long Time

Heart of Glass

ENCORE

The Tide is High

Dreaming

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 8 to 14

A Cuban-American plumbs the distant past in Boca Raton, ’80s and ’90s rock icons channel “Rapture and Rage” in Hollywood,  and “Y&R” stars bring the small screen to the big stage. Plus, The Psychedelic Furs, Norm MacDonald, a horror movie fest and more in your week ahead.


TUESDAY

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What: Opening day of “Deep Line Drawings by Carlos Luna”

Where: Boca Raton Museum of Art, 501 Plaza Real, Boca Raton

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $10-$12, free for students

Contact: 561/392-2500, bocamuseum.org

Artist Carlos Luna is the embodiment of South Florida’s melting pot. A Cuban exile, he emigrated to Mexico in 1991 and then to Miami nearly a decade later, absorbing the customs, rituals and rich artistic heritage of each country. Cuban jargon, Mexican Day of the Dead-style imagery and even European cubism inform his dynamic oeuvre, which stretches from paintings and drawings to sculpture, tapestry and installations. Rootless, restless and forever innovating, Luna continues to integrate new styles and formats by, in the case of “Deep Line Drawings,” gazing into the distant past: The exhibition will feature new works on amate, a type of paper formed from natural tree bark whose practice dates to Pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. It runs through Feb. 11, 2018.

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What: Blondie and Garbage

Where: Hard Rock Live, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $50-$90

Contact: 954/797-5531, myhrl.com

Pioneering female-fronted rock from two generations headlines this nostalgic jaunt, aka the “Rapture and Rage” tour. Former punk sensations Blondie, indefatigably touring with original members Debbie Harry, Chris Stein and Clem Burke, continues to innovate on its star-studded latest album “Pollinator,” a dancey, sparkly collection of tunes that picks up where the group’s ‘80s pinnacle left off. Just as impressive, ‘90s hitmakers Garbage (“Stupid Girl,” “I Think I’m Paranoid”), led by the infectious and self-flagellating vocalist Shirley Manson, is likewise on the heels of its strongest album in years: the expansive, brooding and serpentine “Strange Little Birds.” Hear a tailored mix of the old and the new at this co-headlining tour, along with opening act Deep Valley. Look for a review of this concert Wednesday here on bocamag.com.

WEDNESDAY

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What: The Psychedelic Furs

Where: Culture Room, 3045 N. Federal Highway, Fort Lauderdale

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $32

Contact: 954/564-1074, cultureroom.net

The night after Blondie, keep the ‘80s party raging with The Psychedelic Furs, the British New Wave standard-bearers founded by brothers Richard and Tim Butler. This group’s quartet of albums from their 1981 to 1987 peak period became permanent fixtures of pop music enthusiasts, underground goths and club kids alike, on the strength of Richard Butler’s singular vocal style, the band’s limitless capacity for shiny earworms—“Pretty in Pink,” “Heaven” and “Love My Way” are among its biggest—and its ability to channel the angst of its era and beyond. “President Gas,” for instance, written during the Thatcher and Reagan revolutions, contains lyrics that just as easily apply today. The Furs haven’t released an album in 26 years, but their ‘80s output continues to offer a trove of stellar material for the group’s fans, and their current set list stretches all the way back to their lesser-known, self-titled debut from 1980.

THURSDAY

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What: Opening of Fusion Art & Fashion Gallery

Where: 501 Fern St., West Palm Beach

When: 4:30 to 9:30 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/305-6004

West Palm Beach’s latest gallery, Fusion Art & Fashion, is a brainchild of the producers of the annual Fashion Week Palm Beach, an area staple since 2010. The gallery will keep things local for its inaugural exhibition, “Sublime Chaos: A Journey From Realism to Abstraction,” a showcase of 25 paintings from West Palm Beach-based artist Deborah Bigeleisen. Her swirling, tempestuous art pops off the canvas with bold colors inspired by fellow-abstract expressionist Paul Jenkins. Check it out through Oct. 10, and if you buy a painting, proceeds of the sale will benefit Soroptimist International of the Palm Beaches.

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What: Opening night of “True West”

Where: The Vanguard, 1501 S. Andrews Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m.

Cost $20-$35

Contact: 954/591-0818, newcityplayers.org

In the kind of tragic scheduling irony that could never be planned, New City Players were likely in the early stages of rehearsing their production of Sam Shepard’s 1980 masterpiece “True West” when the heartbreaking news came across the wire: Shepard had died, at age 73, from complications of ALS. Also an Academy Award-actor specializing in rugged, earthen characters, Shepard was most prominently a playwright, where he penned emotionally excoriating and shocking sagas of fractured families. “True West” is a stellar example of his invigorating craftsmanship, focusing on the split between estranged brothers—a screenwriter and a petty thief—who find themselves cohabitating in their mother’s otherwise empty house. Tensions flare in this astute and surprising play, which seems to be as much about the entertainment business as filial strife. See this poignantly timed tribute to the late, great playwright, through Aug. 27.

FRIDAY

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What: Opening night of Popcorn Frights Film Festival

Where: O Cinema Wynwood, 90 N.W. 29th St., Miami

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: $12 per screening, $120 for all-access festival badges

Contact: popcornfrights.com

Most mainstream horror cinema, with its cheap and predictable scares and routine plotting, has nothing on the innovative and gonzo approaches of underground auteurs. That’s the raison d’être behind Popcorn Frights, which screens a flurry of cultish horror films too weird or subversive for commercial theaters. It all begins at 7 p.m. Friday with the Florida premiere of “Tragedy Girls,” a satirical horror-comedy that takes bloody aim at fame-seeking internet exhibitionism. The film stars Brianna Hildebrand, of “Deadpool,” and Craig Robinson, and has been described as “Scream meets Clueless.” Tickets are still available for most of the other films, which screen through Aug. 17. Check out the full schedule at the festival’s website.

SATURDAY

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What: “The Young and the Restless” Soap Opera Festival

Where: Seminole Casino Coconut Creek, 5550 N.W. 40th St., Coconut Creek

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $30-$50

Contact: 800/653-8000, casinococo.com

Broadcast television may have entered its glacial death spiral, but “The Young and the Restless” shows no signs of diminishing. If anything, it’s keeping CBS alive. The highest-rated daytime drama on American television, “Y&R” proves that well-written, well-acted, well-directed soaps can still attract eyeballs and advertising dollars even in the Netflix world. Having never seen an episode, I won’t pretend to write about it with authority, but for the show’s fans, the actors appearing at this live Soap Opera Festival need no introduction. Amelia Heinle, Kristoff St. John, Tracey E. Bregman (pictured) and Chrisian Le Blanc will field questions from the audience and share behind-the-scenes insights about the Emmy-winning show’s production in this 75-minute program.

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What: Norm MacDonald

Where: The Casino @ Dania Beach, 301 E. Dania Beach Blvd., Dania Beach

When: 7 and 10 p.m.

Cost: $30-$45

Contact: 954/920-1511, casinodaniabeach.com

I reckon it’s been years since my favorite comedian, Norm MacDonald, has taken a stage in South Florida, so expect a slate of new (or at least new-ish) material that may or may not also be found on his recent Netflix special “Hitler’s Dog, Gossip & Trickery.” MacDonald is most famous for his polarizing three-year run as the “Weekend Update” anchor in the booming ‘90s of “Saturday Night Live,” in which he shredded pop-culture magnets like O.J. Simpson, Jack Kevorkian and Lyle Lovett with relentless potshots. But Norm’s oddball humor, which included deadpan parodies of Larry King and David Letterman, quickly bypassed mainstream acceptance in favor of cult worship, which only intensified during his brief film career and sitcom wilderness. Always better solo than in groups, MacDonald is most gifted on the standup stage, where his brand of alternative, ironic and occasionally anti-humor yields its richest rewards.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: Aug. 1 to 7

Delray restaurants offer prix fixe discounts, a cappella singers reinterpret Top 40 hits, and a “Kosher cheerleader” explains her complicated backstory. Plus, Bill Maher, “Landline,” food & wine at an art museum and more in your week ahead.


TUESDAY

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What: Straight No Chaser with Postmodern Jukebox

Where: Mizner Park Amphitheater, 590 Plaza Real, Boca Raton When: 7:30 p.m. Cost: $18-$89

Contact: 800/745-3000, ticketmaster.com

Like most a cappella groups, Straight No Chaser found its harmonic calling on a college campus, Indiana University, in the late 1990s. But it took the world nine years to fully discover the band, when a 1998 video of its polyphonic take on “The 12 Days of Christmas” went viral, in 2007. That video yielded 20 million hits and a five-record deal, which has seen the nine-piece ensemble expand well beyond holiday hits. At this concert, expect to hear the singers’ heavenly takes on vintage and contemporary classics from Radiohead, Bob Dylan, Willie Nelson, Hozier, Walk the Moon and many more. Definitely arrive early for openers Postmodern Jukebox, which similarly reinterprets the hits of others, transforming “Call Me Maybe” into a jazz standard and “Shake It Off” into a vintage Motown number.

 

Photo provided by Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

Photo provided by Delray Beach Downtown Development Authority.

What: Opening day of “Dine Out Delray”

Where: Downtown Delray Beach restaurants

When: Lunch and dinner times

Cost: Varies per restaurant

Contact: 561/243-1077, downtowndelraybeach.com

If there’s still such a thing as a slow season in Palm Beach County, August is it: Parking in downtown Delray is more plentiful, events are scanter, noise pollution less invasive and, perhaps most importantly, restaurants are more available without a reservation. That’s why this midsummer night’s dream in the most fun small town in America has proven so popular: The annual Dine Out Delray Restaurant Week offers discounted opportunities to discover (or rediscover) the finest restaurants on and off the Ave, which will be serving prix fixe lunch and dinner specials through Aug. 7 only. The lunch deals run as low as $10 per person, and dinners start at $16. Culinary events and classes complement the great dining, and the list of participating restaurants is a gastronomic who’s-who: 32 East, 3rd and 3rd, Caffe Luna Rosa, City Oyster, Deck 84, Max’s Harvest, Prime and the list goes on an on. Visit downtowndelraybeach.com for complete details.

THURSDAY

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What: Art of Food & Wine Series

Where: NSU Art Museum, 1 E. Las Olas Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

When: 6 to 8 p.m.

Cost: $40

Contact: 954/525-5500, nsuartmuseum.org

Once a month, the NSU Art Museum stays open until 8 on Thursday evenings to brings culinary delights to art lovers. The theme of this month’s program speaks for itself: “Wine & Chocolate, How Sweet It Is.” The event pairs four varietals with four types of chocolates from Hoffman’s, one of our region’s top suppliers of sweet-toothed goodness. While you’re there, stick around to check out shows like “Some Aesthetic Decisions” and “Anselm Kiefer” before they close in September.

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Sandy Gelfound

What: Opening night of “The Kosher Cheerleader: A Truish, Jewish Love Story”

Where: PGA Arts Center, 4076 PGA Blvd., Palm Beach Gardens

When: Show times vary

Cost: $45-$59

Contact: 855/448-7469, pgaartscenter.com

Comedian Sandy Gelfound has enjoyed an unusual life. Aside from opening standup gigs for Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, Gelfound forged a twin career as a cheerleader for the Oakland Raiders, a five-year tenure that, in part, inspired this solo show. But “The Kosher Cheerleader” is also about her upbringing, which she says “left a hole in my heart.” Raised by a Jewish atheist father and a Russian orthodox gypsy dancer mom, Gelfound grew up battling her parents’ divergent opinions about life and their daughter’s career prospects. Gelfound hopes her show, with its amusing and touching contradictions, encourages others to find humor through hardship. It runs through Aug. 27.

FRIDAY

Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn appear in Landline by Gillian Robespierre, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jojo Whilden.

Jenny Slate and Abby Quinn appear in Landline by Gillian Robespierre, an official selection of the U.S. Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jojo Whilden.

What: Opening day of “Landline”

Where: Cinemark Palace 20, 3200 Airport Road, Boca Raton

When: Show times pending

Cost: $7-$11

Contact: 561/395-4695

Nineties nostalgia permeates the premise of “Landline,” an urbane comedy about a dysfunctional American family set during the fall of 1995. We’re not 15 minutes in before co-writer/director Gillian Robespierre has peppered her script with references to k.d. lang, Blockbuster Video and “Must See TV.” But it’s the transcendent universality of the characters’ foibles, not the ‘90s fetishism, that lifts the narrative. Jenny Slate plays an early-twenties professional who strays from her fiancée; Abby Quinn is her younger sister, newly experimenting with sex and drugs; and Edie Falco and John Turturro play their upper-middle-class parents, whose calcifying relationship is the elephant in every room they share. The film takes all the expected directions, but the charmingly wayward performances give us plenty to root for, and inject the familiar with pathos. It’s easily a sweeter, more egalitarian comedy than Robespierre’s 2014 debut, the polarizing culture-war bromide “Obvious Child.” In Boca, you can also see it starting Friday at Living Room Theaters and Regal Shadowood.

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What: Opening night of “The Good Thief”

Where: South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center, 10950 S.W. 211th St., Cutler Bay

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $25 general admission, $20 seniors and industry, free for attendees under age 25

Contact: 786/573-5300, smdcac.org

Local theatre company Ground Up and Rising specializes in minimalist stagecraft, and it doesn’t get more minimalistic than “The Good Thief,” a 65-minute soliloquy from master Irish dramatist Conor McPherson. Carbonell Award winner Gregg Weiner, in what I take to be his first one-man show, plays the title character, a self-described “paid thug” whose profession consists of roughing up—and occasionally offing—the enemies of his employer, a crime boss. In McPherson’s evocative monologue, the thief reflects on his poor career prospects, his busted personal relationships, and a job that went terribly awry, forcing him to confront his conscience. “The Good Thief” is an early McPherson work, completed when he was in his early ‘20s; it likely won’t be produced again for an awfully long time, so it may be worth the schlep to South Miami. See it through Aug. 20.

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY

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What: Robert Dubac’s “The Book of Moron”

Where: Broward Center, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale

When: 8 p.m. Friday, 4 and 8 p.m. Saturday

Cost: $45-$50

Contact: 954/462-0222, browardcenter.org

A monologist whose craft has been compared to Mark Twain and Lily Tomlin, Robert Dubac looks askance at American culture and politics, with an eye that is both jaundiced and probing. Prone to asking big-picture questions about a society awash in distracting minutia, Dubac acts as philosopher and social critic in his latest stage comedy “The Book of Moron,” which showcases his deft combination of standup and live theatre. In this touring production, which recently ran off-Broadway, Dubac inhabits multiple guises in his deconstruction of our so-called idiocracy, shooting at easy targets like the Kardashians and selfies but often reaching profound conclusions that encapsulate our damaged state of things. It’s no wonder that “the Book of Moron” has been described as “a head trip on a banana peel.”

SUNDAY

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What: Bill Maher

Where: The Fillmore, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach

When: 8:30 p.m.

Cost: $59-$95

Contact: 305/673-7300, livenation.com

It seems like yesterday that Bill Maher was being threatened by a lawsuit from one Donald J. Trump, after alleging in a comedy bit that Trump may, perhaps, be the child of an orangutan, and that only the release of the billionaire’s full birth certificate could disprove the assertion. Nothing came from this litigious confrontation between two of the most inflated egos in popular culture, but it proved a harbinger of humor to come. Trump has a different job title now, one that has been keeping Maher’s weekly talk show, Real Time, stocked with his best material since the George W. Bush administration. Expect Palm Beach’s most famous semi-resident to consume much of the oxygen in Maher’s new standup tour, which will likely address his favorite themes—from religion to political correctness to the media.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
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Your Week Ahead: July 25 to 31

Sci-fi, fantasy and comics coalesce at Supercon, a beloved Delray institution reopens, and a man and his elephant commune in a Thai road film. Plus, new drama at GableStage, the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival and more in your week ahead.


TUESDAY

Thaneth Warakulnukroh and Bong appear in Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Chananun Chotrungroj.

Thaneth Warakulnukroh and Bong appear in Pop Aye by Kirsten Tan, an official selection of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Chananun Chotrungroj.

What: Screening of “Pop Aye”

Where: Movies of Delray, 7421 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $12 (includes popcorn and beverage)

Contact: 561/638-0020

As any director who has worked with animals can tell you, filming with a dog or cat is no picnic. But an elephant? That’s the challenge faced by first-time feature-film director Kirsten Tan, who cast a pachyderm in the co-starring role of this year’s Sundance sensation “Pop Aye.” When a disillusioned Bangkok architect happens upon the elephant with which he shared his happiest childhood memories, he decides to bring it back to his hometown—a journey yielding poignancy, humor and visually striking absurdity. This crowd-pleasing road movie was the first Singaporean film to be selected at Sundance, where it won a special jury prize. Catch it Tuesday as part of Shelly Isaacs’ foreign-film series. It may be your only chance to see it on the big screen.

THURSDAY TO SUNDAY

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What: Supercon

Where: Broward County Convention Center, 1950 Eisenhower Blvd., Fort Lauderdale

When: 1:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Thursday, 10:30 to 1 a.m. Friday and Saturday, 10:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday

Cost: $22.50 and up

Contact: 954/399-1330, floridasupercon.com

A shlock-movie maestro, the legendary extreme wrestler known as Mankind, the original Karate Kid, and “Star Trek: The Next Generation’s” own Geordi La Forge are just a handful of the celebrity guests who will appear, and sign memorabilia, at this statewide confab for all things comic book-, video game- and fantasy-related. In addition to the aforementioned Lloyd Kaufman, Mick Foley, Ralph Macchio and LeVar Burton, this year’s eccentric lineup of talent also includes Josh McDermitt of “The Walking Dead,” Lee Majors of “The Six Million Dollar Man,” Linda Blair of “The Exorcist,” and many more—not to mention the dozens of comic book artists and cosplay celebrities who will appear, many of them dressed to the nines. All-night tabletop games, a Geek Film Festival, trivia contests, dance shows, parties, live auctions, theatre games, workshops, karaoke and more will ensure that, for nerds of all ages, there will never be a dull moment.

THURSDAY AND FRIDAY

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What: Grand re-opening of Subculture Coffee

Where: Subculture Coffee, 20 W. Atlantic Ave., Delray Beach

When: 7 a.m. to midnight Thursday, 10 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday

Cost: Varies, with free perks

Contact: 561/318-5142, subculturecoffee.com

Lovers of the artisan-brewed, small-batch java at this Delray Beach institution were crestfallen in March when the Atlantic Avenue coffee shop was forced into a sudden eviction. Since then, owner Rodney Mayo has toiled tirelessly to find a new Delray location for his community hangout. Four months later, he’s found it, in a more hospitable Avenue location. To celebrate the good news, Mayo and master roaster Sean Scott are offering free coffee all day Thursday. Come back Friday after 10 p.m. for free beer and a lineup of live bands and DJs.

FRIDAY TO SUNDAY

Mad Cat Live in Performance 2

What: Mad Cat Live!: The Eagles’ “On the Border”

Where: Miami Theater Center, 9806 N.E. Second Ave., Miami Shores

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $25

Contact: 305/751-9550, madcattheatre.org

In the era of streaming radio and iPhone shuffles, the full-length LP is becoming less important to mainstream music consumption. Don’t tell that to the legions of vinyl collectors who still pay attention to album chronologies—nor to the audiophiles of Mad Cat Theatre, which has long respected the sanctity of original releases through its Mad Cat Live! series. These theatrical concerts, featuring re-creations of lesser-known albums from iconic artists, combine musical performances with professional theatre sets, lighting design, sound design, film projection and costumes. This season, the five-piece Mad Cat Live! band will perform the Eagles’ third release, “On the Border,” in its entirety, capturing the rockers’ smooth transition from a countrified sound to more a rock-centric direction.

SATURDAY

WHY TORTURE IS WRONG

What: Opening night of “Informed Consent”

Where: GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Ave., Coral Gables

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $60 ($45-$55 for other show times)

Contact: 866/811-4111, gablestage.org

The prolific and inquisitive playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer is no stranger to South Florida theatre. “The Three Sisters of Weehawken,” her absurdist modern-day spin on Chekhov, opened in Boca last year, and works like “Leveling Up,” about the distancing effects of drone warfare; and “End Days,” a comedy about religious hysteria, have been well-received on local stages. Her latest play “Informed Consent” tackles another heady issue: the ethics of gene science an in industry that is accelerating faster than most of us can comprehend. Based on an actual legal case in which a Native American tribe sued Arizona State University for misuse of data, “Informed Consent” follows a passionate genetic researcher whose personal motivations cloud her scientific training. The unending debate about science and belief takes on new dimensions in this play, whose genomic breakthroughs will resonate in our post-CRISPR era. GableStage’s production runs through Aug. 27.

SUNDAY

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What: Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival

Where: Crest Theatre at Old School Square, 51 N. Swinton Ave., Delray Beach

When: 2 p.m.

Cost: $25

Contact: 561/243-7922, oldschoolsquare.org

I’ve been remiss in not mentioning this venerable festival sooner: The masterful players of the Palm Beach Chamber Music Festival have been performing their 26th anniversary season for the past three weekends. Under the “better late than never” belief, I enthusiastically endorse the orchestra’s final performance of the festival. The program features Bohuslav Martinu’s “Quartet, H 139” for clarinet, horn, cello and side drum; Malcolm Arnold’s “Quintet, Opus 7” for flute, bassoon, horn, violin and viola; and Antonin Dvorak’s “String Quintet in G Major, Opus 77” for two violins, viola, cello and bass.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.
MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 21: Jason Isbell of The 400 Unit performs at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

Concert Review: Jason Isbell at Fillmore Miami Beach

By James Biagiotti

MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 21: Jason Isbell of The 400 Unit performs at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

MIAMI BEACH, FL – JULY 21: Jason Isbell of The 400 Unit performs at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

Don’t put Jason Isbell in a box. Some call his music alternative country, some call it southern rock, and some call it Americana. No matter the genre, Isbell’s music is going to showcase his dexterity as a guitar player, his soulful singing and his incredible lyricism. Those traits are exactly what he brought to his show at the Fillmore Miami Beach on Friday night with his backing band The 400 Unit.

Isbell is a Grammy-winning guitarist, singer and songwriter from Green Hill, Alabama. He first rose to prominence as a member of the beloved southern rock stalwarts Drive-By Truckers, and is now best known for his solo work with The 400 Unit, which includes his wife Amanda Shires on violin.

South Florida is a tough market for Isbell’s tough-to-define brand of alt-country, and he drew a small crowd to the Fillmore, struggling to fill seats in the back of the venue. At times, conversation in the crowd could be heard during the performance, and a strange discord emerged in the audience between those who wanted to stand and those who wanted to sit.

After a mostly slow and timidly received opening set by Strand of Oaks, the project of Philadelphia-based musician Timothy Showalter, Isbell and The 400 Unit took the stage and began their set with “Anxiety,” a forceful cut from this year’s The Nashville Sound, which reached No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard chart earlier this month.

MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 21: Sadler Vaden, Jason Isbell, Jimbo Hart, Chad Gamble and Amanda Shires of The 400 Unit perform at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

MIAMI BEACH, FL – JULY 21: Sadler Vaden, Jason Isbell, Jimbo Hart, Chad Gamble and Amanda Shires of The 400 Unit perform at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

Not every song of the set landed as well as the first. Some of the slower songs seemed to lose the attention of the crowd, and fans could be seen trickling in and out to visit the bars in the lobby. I heard more than a few comparisons between Isbell and Ryan Adams, some positive and some negative.

The first big moment of the night came when Isbell busted out “Decoration Day,” a powerhouse track that he wrote for his first record with Drive-By Truckers. Much of the crowd came to the show in DBT T-shirts, and these fans were elated to hear the old classic from the beginning of Isbell’s career.

The most touching moment of the night came when Isbell dusted off “Cover Me Up,” the opening track from his 2013 record Southeastern, and perhaps the strongest illustration of the night of his impressive lyricism. He lovingly dedicated the song to his wife as the rest of The 400 Unit left the stage.

“This next song I wrote for my wife Amanda,” Isbell told the crowd. “It means a whole lot to me when I get to sing this song to her, with her, and for her as well.”

MIAMI BEACH, FL - JULY 21: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires of The 400 Unit perform at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

MIAMI BEACH, FL – JULY 21: Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires of The 400 Unit perform at the Fillmore on July 21, 2017 in Miami Beach, Florida. Credit Larry Marano © 2017

Easily the most moving song of the set, “Cover Me Up” began as a quiet, stripped-down ballad with only Isbell and his wife onstage. Slowly, the other members of The 400 Unit joined them one by one, adding layers to the song as it built to a climax that featured a slide guitar solo. The song then receded into a calm harmony between Isbell and his wife, concluding with the strongest reaction of the night from the crowd.

Even if the entire set wasn’t gripping, Isbell and his band knew how to end the show on an extremely strong note. The final tune of the night, a rollicking rendition of the Allman Brothers Band’s classic “Whipping Post,” got the entire crowd on its feet and brought the house down. The extended, jam-heavy interpretation of the song was reminiscent of My Morning Jacket at its best, and put Isbell’s guitar prowess on full display. (Isbell rotated between five or six axes throughout the night, from Fenders and Gibsons to a beautiful Martin acoustic.)

It seems clear after attending Jason Isbell’s show that Miami Beach is not the strongest market for his genre of music. Though Isbell may not have been able to fill up the venue (or even come close), he did bring in a loyal group of fans, some of whom drove hours to see the show. The nearly 20-song set was comprised almost entirely of his solo work, and though it had some ups and downs, the valiant performance by Isbell and The 400 Unit proved that his unique brand of southern rock is here to stay.

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Your Week Ahead: July 18 to 24

A cinema honors a late horror legend, The “Real Kramer” visits Boca, and a Sondheim masterpiece opens at the Kravis. Plus, Bryan Norcross, “Bad Jews,” a Talking Heads tribute and more in your week ahead.


THURSDAY

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What: “Kramer on Seinfeld”

Where: Boca Black Box, 8221 Glades Road, Suite 10

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $25-$35

Contact: 561/483-9036, bocablackbox.com

For “Seinfeld” creator Larry David, art imitated life. For six years, in an apartment complex in Hell’s Kitchen, N.Y., he lived across the hall from an eccentric guy named Kramer—first name Kenny, not Cosmo—who would develop strange ideas and inventions, and share his obsessions with golf, hot tubs and other tropes that would later be alchemized into sitcom gold. Kenny Kramer, aka the “real Kramer,” has made a career of this association. A former standup comedian himself, the 74-year-old entertainer’s multimedia presentation, “Kramer on Seinfeld,” features anecdotes from the show’s history, focusing on how his own life stories became fodder for one of the ‘90s most iconic characters. Look for a review of this tour on Friday here at bocamag.com.

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What: Art After Dark: “Happy Birthday, Edgar Degas!”

Where: Norton Museum of Art, 1451 S. Olive Ave., West Palm Beach

When: 5 to 9 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 561/832-5196, norton.org

The Parisian master Edgar Degas died at 83 in 1917, which would make him—bear with me, as math isn’t my strongest suit—183 this year. (OK, that’s an easy one.) In honor of this birthday centennial, the Norton is dedicating a portion of this week’s Art After Dark to his legacy. Degas was famous for his influential sculptures of dancers, and at 6:30 p.m., members of Ballet Florida (speaking of blasts from the past!) will perform site-specific works that reference Degas’ iconic paintings and sculptures. Also at 6:30, violinist Lisa Fearon will perform 19th century music, complementing Art After Dark’s usual array of spotlight talks, art activities, Happy Hour drink specials and more.

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What: Bryan Norcross

Where: Books & Books, 265 Aragon Ave., Coral Gables

When: 7 p.m.

Cost: Free

Contact: 305/442-4408, booksandbooks.com

Anyone who lived in South Florida in October 1992 probably has a Hurricane Andrew horror story. Many involve huddling in bathtubs, all ears tuned to the voice of God—aka CBS’s Bryan Norcross—on battery-powered or hand-cranked radios. Norcross famously talked South Floridians through the Great Hurricane of 1992, a disaster that established a national reputation for the Miami meteorologist. In honor of the storm’s 25th anniversary, Norcross will speak about his new book My Hurricane Andrew Story. Now employed by the Weather Channel, where he’s still the nation’s go-to voice on hurricanes, Norcross reflects on the killer ‘cane and offers lessons we can learn when the next superstorm blows our way. See him discuss these topics and more, and pick up a copy of the book while you’re there.

FRIDAY

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What: Opening night of “Company”

Where: Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach

When: 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $45

Contact: 561/832-7469, kravis.org

Stephen Sondheim’s 1970 musical comedy turned out to be a watershed moment in Broadway history. Much like Woody Allen elevated the romantic film comedy seven years later, with “Annie Hall,” Sondheim uncrated a (mid)life’s worth of marital strifes and peccadillos into a 16-song concept musical that was as bold in themes as it was in plotlessness. Centering a commitment-phobic single man and expanding outward to three girlfriends and the five married couples with whom he spends the most time, “Company” broached heretofore unexplored topics with scathing wit and honesty. Featuring iconic Sondheim numbers like “Getting Married Today,” “Side by Side by Side” and “The Ladies Who Lunch,” “Company” justifiably netted six Tony Awards. MNM Productions’ rendition at the Kravis features an all-star cast including Robert Johnston, Amy Miller Brennan, Clay Cartland, Laura Hodos, Wayne LeGette and Leah Sessa, and it runs through Aug. 6.

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What: Opening night of “Bad Jews”

Where: Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St., Miami Lakes

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $25-$30

Contact: 305/558-3737, mainstreetplayers.com

In dramatizing a family conflict over a priceless Jewish heirloom, this bold, provocative, shockingly funny play by Joshua Harmon addresses such subjects as religious versus cultural Judaism, fidelity to family, Israel/Palestine, the Holocaust, the Jewish diaspora, and the specter of hypocrisy. These are weighty, sensitive themes, especially for South Florida audiences, but “Bad Jews” expresses them with humor and sympathy for all. Featuring a ferocious role for a leading lady, along with rich roles for her three supporting actors, this is a play that will have you discussing and debating its implications long after the curtain rises. Check out Main Street Players’ production, starring Hannah Benitez in the lead role, through Aug. 13.

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What: Opening day of “Haroon Mirza: ACIDGEST”

Where: Perez Art Museum, 1103 Biscayne Blvd., Miami

When: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Cost: $12-$16

Contact: 305/375-3000, pamm.org

Those of us who have never experienced the sensorial confusion of synesthesia—i.e. “hearing” colors and “seeing” sounds—might be able to simulate the next best thing at “ACIDGEST,” the latest multimedia exhibition from London-born artist Haroon Mirza. Consisting primarily of speakers and LEDs that communicate via corresponding frequencies, the exhibition will impact its viewers visually and aurally through electrical current and a concrete poem the artist created. Mirza seeks to redefine and distort relationships between optics and acoustics, and this complex new work, which must be seen to be believed, is surely a prime example of it. It will run all the way through May 20, 2018.

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What: “Night of the Living Dead”

Where: O Cinema Wynwood, 90 N.W. 29th St., Miami

When: 11:45 p.m. Cost: Free

Contact: 305/571-9970, o-cinema.org

Cinema fans, still reeling over the passing of Jonathan Demme this year, lost another titan of the medium this past weekend, when George A. Romero died after a “brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer,” per his producing partner. Romero is universally acknowledged as the creator of the modern zombie film, and in tribute to the late horror maestro, O Cinema and the Popcorn Frights Film Festival will host his most groundbreaking feature, 1968’s “Night of the Living Dead.” The black-and-white midnight-movie benchmark was shot on a miniscule budget of $114,000, and it earned more than $30 million in return. Romero’s genius was to merge visceral B-film scares with the thoughtful subtext and adult themes of art cinema, a deft combination will be on display in full flower at this weekend’s memorial screening.

SATURDAY

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What: Talking Dreads

Where: Funky Biscuit, 303 S.E. Mizner Blvd., Boca Raton

When: 8 p.m.

Cost: $15-$35

Contact: 561/395-2929, funkybiscuit.com

Island sounds were never far from singer-songwriter David Byrne’s consciousness as the lead singer of Talking Heads, the pioneering Rhode Island new wave act that married jagged punk with an increasingly prominent Caribbean influence. The tribute band Talking Dreads imagines what Byrne’s groundbreaking act would sound like if you excised the punk angst and replaced it with reggae grooves, reinterpreting the Talking Heads canon with a Rastafarian vibe. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Talking Dreads singer Mystic Bowie, whose connection to the original act is only once removed: He sang for, and recorded with, Tom Tom Club, the Talking Heads spinoff, for nearly 20 years. At this intimate performance, check out the group’s mellowed takes on “Psycho Killer,” “Once in a Lifetime,” “Burning Down the House” and many more.

As the A&E editor of bocamag.com, I offer reviews, previews, interviews, news reports and musings on all things arty and entertainment-y in Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties.